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Miyetti Allah Group says Benue's anti-open grazing law is hard on herdsmen

The association said the government has to amend the law to favour both farmers and herders.

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A cattle herder leading a herd of cows (illustration)

(Aljazirah News)

The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has once again condemned the implementation of the anti-open grazing law in Benue state which it has blamed for the crisis that has led to the spate of killings allegedly carried out by cattle herdsmen in the state.

Ever since herdsmen were blamed for the death of 73 people in attacks launched in Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue state in the opening days of January 2018, hundreds of people have been killed in similar attacks in the state and a few others in the country.

While speaking on Channels Television on Thursday, June 7, 2018, Miyetti Allah's national secretary, Usman Baba-Ngelzarma, said the law has not solved the herders/farmers crisis but worsened it in a way that has resulted in the loss of lives and properties in the state.

Benue governor, Samuel Ortom, signed the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law in November 2017, banning open grazing in the state and directing roaming cattle herders to ranch their cattle.

Baba-Ngeljarma said the law has been badly-implemented and targeted at chasing herdsmen out of the state by making the process of acquiring land there impossible for cattle owners.

He said, "The drafters' intention may be for this ranching and prohibition maybe to take place at the same time or ranching first before prohibition. If you look at the condition laid down to have ranch in Benue, that section asserts that it is totally impossible for the pastoralist to acquire land in Benue, so the law is made in a way to totally alienate the pastoralist from Benue state.

"That was our fear. We feel when the law is implemented, our members will be chased out of Benue and this is what is happening now. Our members are being chased out of Benue state because there's no provision for ranching, no arrangement was made for them to acquire ranches, and even the condition laid down in the law is too hard for them to acquire ranch even if they want to acquire one.

"These are some of the grey areas of the law and Benue is not an island in Nigeria, it's a state."

Baba-Ngeljarma further asserted that it's impossible for Benue to make an anti-open grazing law because international transformer roads run through the state.

He said, "We have these international transformer roads that transverse through Benue which is covered by the Accord protocol. It's a road that emanates maybe from Malay down to Central Africa and it passes through Benue state and covered by the Accord treaty.

"So, if a transformer pastoralist is passing and comes to Benue, what do you expect him to do? To carry his cows on his head and pass?"

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Anti-open grazing law has favoured no one - Miyetti Allah

Baba-Ngeljarma said his association had warned Ortom about implementing the law but that he failed to listen because he admitted that he was under pressure and promised that it would work. Ngeljarma also noted that since the law was passed months ago, no one has benefited from it, including even the government.

He said, "We have made a lot of observations and cited a lot of grey areas and requested the government to have a look at those grey areas before the implementation. We were invited on the eve of the implementation of the law by the governor (Ortom) so we told him our observations. He said his hands are tied, he's under pressure and has to implement. He said the law would be a win-win situation.

"Here we are today, nobody is winning from the law. The pastoralists are not winning and the farmers too are not winning. Today, most of the farmers are living in IDP camps; even the government is not winning. Even the security apparatus is not winning."

Baba-Ngeljarma disclosed that the Benue state government has not been responding to requests from the Miyetti Allah group to have a dialogue on restructuring the anti-open grazing law. He urged the Ortom-led government to review the law and make it acceptable for all parties to co-exist peacefully.

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